Let’s open more land to oil producers

Our economy runs on abundant, affordable energy. It’s what fuels our factories, helps our farms flourish and powers our economy. Unfortunately, the skyrocketing price of gas has made filling up at the pump extremely difficult for families and businesses already struggling to meet their financial obligations. It poses the potential to stall any economic recovery and that’s why I believe Congress and the president must act to address the high price of gasoline. The federal government has resources at its disposal that would help American families, but is refusing to use them. It seems impossible – even unjust – that this is the case but in fact, oil production on federal lands was down 14 percent in 2011 despite the American energy hardship. The present administration has suggested that tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) – emergency oil in underground storage caverns intended for supply interruptions resulting from shutdowns, natural disasters and national security emergencies – may be the answer when it comes to bringing down prices. Tapping the SPR may be politically expedient for the president, but it’s also a one-time, short-term fix for an ongoing problem. In response to grumblings about the SPR by the administration and others, I introduced H.R. 4136, which provides that in order to drawdown oil from the SPR – unless there is a severe energy supply disruption – a plan must be in place to increase leases on federal lands. Simply put, if the administration believes that we have a supply shortage that is severe enough to warrant tapping into the SPR, we should address that shortage by making more lands available for production. If supply is the issue, then lets address supply with good policy – not politics. The last time President Obama drew down oil from the SPR, in June 2011, he released 30 million barrels. If the president believes we need this amount right now – or any other amount – why doesn’t he address it by streamlining the process to drill in areas that have tremendous oil reserves? The first step is making more federal land available for lease. Our energy supply faces growing global uncertainty. Iran could shut down the Strait of Hormuz and violence could erupt across a volatile region that we rely on to keep our lights on and our cars running. This very real threat is at our doorstep and we need to be prepared for a real energy supply disruption. We don’t need one-time political fixes to long-term problems. If the U.S. needs oil, we should find ways to get it at home. It is time we quit relying on overseas energy. H.R. 4136 does just that. Gardner, R-Colo., represents Larimer and Weld counties.

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